My childhood had not adequately equipped me with an ability to love without sex. At 21 I had barely any relationship with my adoptive mother or my adoptive father.
Both had found it necessary to leave me to my own devices; my mother because she had ruled with an iron rod and I had fought back twice as hard, my father because he had only started to parent me at 16, to find out it was too late to tame me. So it was that I was brimming with sexuality, a thwarted desire to connect and love. The emptiness that I felt at a lack of family had not been magically filled by meeting my natural mother as I once thought it might have been, and in one last ditch attempt I thought that perhaps meeting my father might be the key.
But I was afraid, so very afraid, because never having related to a man – any man – without my sexuality, I feared that meeting my father would be like throwing a lit match into a haystack. I came alive at touch which had been absent from my childhood. So you cannot know the relief I felt when I met him and felt …nothing. I was safe, from that at least. But my relief was short lived.
My father was a bad penny. He was an ‘odd-job’ man who had erased any trace of himself on the system. No social security, no passport, no taxes. Effectively, he didn’t exist. But I didn’t care; here was the final piece of the puzzle. My father, older and more masculine, looked exactly like me. As I looked at him for the first time in my biological mother’s living room adorned with flowered cushions and salt dough artwork, he turned to her and said.
‘Oh but she’s beautiful. So beautiful.’
That first day we spent at the zoo pretending to look at the animals whilst secretly looking at each other. As we hadn’t seen each other for 21 years, there was not enough time in the world to catch up. And yet this man, my father, who looked like me, was still a stranger. I didn’t want him to touch me. Even a hug seemed too close. He was too close. I felt bells clamoring in my head as he drew near but didn’t recognise why. He was predatory, but I didn’t know what that meant. And so as I said goodbye to him that evening I was unprepared for the first blow –
‘My dick gets hard when I stand next to you.’
It was then that my brain shut down. I simply refused to acknowledge what he said, or the consequences of what he said. I went inside and the remainder of the bottle of wine we had joyfully opened together found me. He was coming back the next day and I was to visit his home where he lived with his girlfriend. I had longed for this discovery. The unsolved piece of the mystery that was meeting my biological father. But now all I wanted to do was die.
At the time I didn’t know there was such a phenomenon called Genetic Sexual Attraction; if I had, I might have been able to intellectualize what was happening. But I doubt it. Because at 21 although legally an adult, I still had the naive mind of a child. A child who simply wanted love and acceptance, and who’d been searching for it her whole life. Thus far I had only gained acceptance with men by having sex with them and suddenly my father had crudely declared his desire for me …sexually.
Genetic Sexual Attraction is a primordial need to experience deep connection or an urge of intimacy that was previously denied. The emotions overwhelms an individual and creates a yearning to bond as nature has always intended. The experience however is happening “out of sequence” and does not fit easily in a simple context of brother and sister, father and daughter, or mother and son.
My mother knew something had happened. I was staying with her at the time, and through hungover tears the next morning, I sobbed out what he had said. She went quite stiff and pale; and when he arrived, drew him aside to talk. I felt like I’d betrayed my father. Would he still want to know me? Love me? Was it even possible now? I was pretty sure he hadn’t meant me to tell my mother, but as their conversation finished, they turned around and were smiling.
‘He’s agreed there is such a thing as too honest. We’ll work through it.’ said my mother. ‘See I knew I hadn’t picked anyone that bad.’
I looked at them both side by side, a curious disaggregation of my own features and saw him smiling, I knew that he was pleased with himself for being able to convince her. And I also knew that at all costs, I could not be left alone with him. But also knowing I could not refuse it.
As we departed in his white ‘odd-job’ van, I prattled desperately trying to leave no space in the sentence where he could speak. During the drive to his house, I turned up the radio as loud as I could without being too obvious. We had lunch at the pub with his girlfriend Carole and I did my utmost to convince her that she didn’t have to leave, but she insisted.
‘You have a lot of catching up to do.’ she said, looking at my father who couldn’t take his eyes off me.
I gazed in flat acceptance at her departing back waiting to hear the words. And then they came.
‘It really hurt me that you discussed our private conversation with your mother. Our relationship is special and no one will understand. That was supposed to be between you and me, father and daughter.’
Now was my chance. Now I had to tell him how repulsive it was and how I would be no party to it. That I hated it. That he couldn’t touch me Now. NOW. But my courage failed me and I burst into tears. Then I heard myself saying
‘I’m so sorry. I won’t do it again.’
‘Good girl.’ He said.
As I was crying in public, everyone around us thought it was quite natural that a father should comfort his daughter. But although he was only stroking my hand with his rough, callused fingers, there was part of me that wanted to vomit at his touch. And yet this was my father. I had wanted a father. And this was him.
My adoptive mother had never wanted me to search for my natural parents. I heard her even then on my shoulder as I cried in the bar.
‘You see what happens when you don’t obey me. This is your fault.’
That day my father saw me off at the station; we had not organised to see each other again. We sat at the station on a bench together, waiting for the train and he admired my ears. He had his arm around me and his coarse fingers were touching the lobe of my ear.
‘It’s so soft, I just want to lick it.’
And then he did. I was mute. Frozen. I thought I was going mad. Rocks pounded fiercely in my ears and eventually the train came. When I got back my mother asked:
‘Did everything go alright?’
I couldn’t bear the shame. Hers or mine. I couldn’t bear the distress. Hers or mine. So I lied.
She heaved a huge sigh of relief and said once more.
‘You see, I knew I couldn’t have picked anyone that bad.’
I didn’t know what she believed. But I knew what she wanted to believe and I recognized that it was even stronger the truth. And I didn’t want to hurt her. So I said
‘Of course you didn’t.’
Then I left, with no intention of seeing either of them ever again.